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Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (PG-13)

Release Date: March 31st, 2006 by Samuel Goldywn Films.
The Cast: Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Donnie Wahlberg, John Goodman, Sean Astin.
Directed by Randall Miller.

BASIC PREMISE: Frank (Carlyle), a widow, falls in love with Meredith (Tomei) at Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Robert Carlyle, as Frank, tries his best to give a sympathetic performance in a film with a very muddled plot. One day, Frank’s luck changes when meets Steve (Goodman), who gives him a ticket to Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School while he slowly dies in a car accident on his way to meet his childhood sweetheart, Lisa, there. According to flashbacks, Steve was once part of that school and made a promise with Lisa to meet her there 40 years later. Frank volunteers to find Lisa for him there and apologize for his absence. When he doesn’t find her there, he still joins the class, led by Marienne Hotchkiss (Steenburgen), Marilyn’s daughter. Once there, the plot gets even more contrived as he develops a romance with Meredith, played with charisma by the beautiful Marisa Tomei. His only obstacle is her abusive, overprotective stepbrother (Wahlberg), also a member of the class who gets into a fit whenever he sees them together. Director Randall Miller jumps around too many times with flashbacks of Steve’s gruesome accident and his childhood memories. There are some sweet and charming moments during the few entertaining dance numbers, but nobody Frank and Meredith have very little chemistry and, on top of that, it’s easy to even forget why he’s there in the first place: to find Lisa. The only surprise in the predictable third act is a cameo by Danny Devito in one of the film’s most awkwardly funny scenes.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Everyone can overcome grief if they put their mind to it. Frank, recently widowed, re-awakens his romantic desires through letting his feet loose in Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. It’s uncertain without or not his grief support group sessions also help him, though—especially since everyone in his group ends up joining the class as well. The ending is somewhat uplifting, but it could have been much more satisfying and moving with a stronger narrative.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Contrived with too many flashbacks.


IN A NUTSHELL: Occasionally sweet and charming, but with a muddled, contrived plot.


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